Kangawalla fire: Wytaliba residents saw their village burn

The bridge leading into Wytaliba burns. Emrgency services created a sidetrack to get across the creek on Saturday.
The bridge leading into Wytaliba burns. Emrgency services created a sidetrack to get across the creek on Saturday.

Stinking of smoke, hours after losing his Wytaliba home of 30 years to a deadly out-of-control blaze, Louis Stoker's first thought was political.

"Anyone who tells you that there's no such thing as climate change has got rocks in their head," he said.

Mr Stoker left the town, 60km east of Glen Innes, by car and on Friday night headed to the evacuation centre at the Glen Innes Showgrounds. He described fleeing a wall of flame to take cover earlier in the day.

"I've lost the whole bloody lot, but maybe my pigs are alive," he said.

"I didn't evacuate exactly, I've just got nowhere to be. I drove up there and had a look and it's ash mate, it's completely stuffed."

A group of Wytablia residents had earlier found shelter at the town oval as the blaze passed them by. From there, Mr Stoker watched in horror as the fire burned through the town in minutes.

His was just one of dozens of stories of horror among the residents who fled the deadly blaze.

Some 37 evacuees fronted up to the Glen Innes showgrounds late on Friday evening and Saturday morning as Red Cross, police and Family and Community Services staff, as well as volunteers, worked to get them registered and housed.

Wyaliba children still wearing the school uniform of a primary school that burned to the ground milled around as adults and parents struggled to get in contact with missing family and friends.

Wytaliba Public School was destroyed.

Wytaliba Public School was destroyed.

One Red Cross volunteer, a former school teacher at the Wytaliba school, greeted every other refugee by name.

A shoeless Louis Stoker had fled his house so fast he left everything in his now wrecked house, including his ID. He saved only his dogs.

He described watching the fire burn straight through the alternative and tight-knit community on Friday afternoon. He went to tell a neighbour he thought it looked "dodgy" and was going to have a closer look.

Leaving the house he stopped to put out a spotfire.

"I got that out; and then I turned around and all around me was ablaze and I went like oh shit, get out of here.

"If you were stuck in the gully, where I (live), it would have been fatal."

"It was "f****** scary shit" he said; two people have died and another seven were injured, including two he helped evacuate. More than 60 homes were destroyed.

"And you get these dopey politicians crapping on about - there's no such thing as climate change and in denial about it.

"Well what do you think's going on?

"Look at the bloody place. There's a whole litany of environmental things going on round the bloody world. I get so cranky."

"It was my nightmare that (the) wind came in that direction in that heat," she said.

"There's people that have lost everything, so I don't know (what we will do now)

"They've lost their money, their cars, they've lost their whole lives. They're needing clothes, they're needing accommodation, so that's what I'm focusing on today is finding temporary accommodation for people."

Through tears, Mayor Sparks described herself as a victim of climate change.

"It's devastating, and it's sort of what I've been predicting that climate change is going to have this sort of effect on communities and we are devastated.

"I'd just say to the community - be strong. We just have to hang together and look after each other."

David Pieters

David Pieters

David Pieters moved to Wytaliba in 1979. The former merchant navy sailor tried to defend his home but was overwhelmed by the intense blaze.

The blaze cut through in 30 minutes. There was no warning, he said.

"I was there on my own, maybe with two or three people it would have worked.

"The adrenaline kicks in. I've worked on a ship so I've gone through fire drills and all that sort of thing.

"So every ten seconds I made an assessment and at some point I decided this hopeless, I have to get out if I want to stay in one piece."

Wearing two overalls to protect himself from flash burns and a wet blanket, he walked out of his burning house, through the blaze.

He wasn't even injured, but his famous house 'the tavern' is a total loss.